Michael has welcomed the news that unemployment in Sevenoaks remains at historically low levels.
According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics, there were 385 claimants of unemployment benefit in Sevenoaks in December. This puts the constituency among the constituencies with the lowest unemployment rates in the country.
The number of unemployed people has fallen by over 10% since the general election and over 60% since 2010.
Michael said: “This is welcome news that shows our local economy and jobs market remain reassuringly robust. At a time of economic uncertainty, more people than ever before have the security of a pay packet and the ability to provide for their families.”
Michael has welcomed the Government’s decision to provide over one and a half million pounds for the redevelopment of Fort Halstead.
The announcement came as the Government allocated £102 million of Local Growth Deal funding for nineteen projects in the South East.
The £1.53 million for Fort Halstead will enable the building of 450 homes, a hotel, a new village centre and a business park with 1,100 high-tech jobs, making it Sevenoaks’ largest new employment site.
Michael said: “This is excellent news for Sevenoaks. Redeveloping Fort Halstead is a key local priority. This funding will kickstart the process, delivering the new housing and jobs we need in the area.”
Michael yesterday welcomed members of the Sevenoaks Youth Council to Westminster.
Led by Sevenoaks Town Council Chief Executive Linda Larter, the group received a tour of the Palace of Westminster before meeting Michael in one of Parliament’s historic committee rooms.
Michael answered questions on a range of topics relating to his responsibilities as Secretary of State for Defence, including North Korea, cyber security and nuclear proliferation.
The group were also able to watch Michael from the public gallery in the House of Commons as he answered questions from MPs.
Michael said: “I was delighted to welcome members of Sevenoaks Youth Council to Parliament. With their perceptive and intelligent questions, they showed that young people in my constituency are increasingly interested in major political issues. I always enjoy welcoming people to see how Parliament works and look forward to hosting more schools and community groups soon.”
In his latest column for the Sevenoaks Chronicle, Michael has written about the need to build on Sevenoaks’ progress this year:
2016 was a very successful year for Sevenoaks. In an unsettled year nationally, our local economy remained strong, with unemployment falling to another record low.
Though there will be challenges, I believe 2017 could be even better.
After so many years of campaigning, in September our new grammar school annexe will finally open. I visited the site just before Christmas and I could already see that it will be a great addition to the remarkable range of high-quality school choice that is now on offer in Sevenoaks. There is still more to do to secure grammar provision for boys, though, and that will be one of my top priorities this year.
Meanwhile, discussions on the new rail franchise will be a great opportunity to lobby for the extension of the Oyster network and the many other rail improvements we want to see. I look forward to continuing to make the case for passengers this year.
With an ageing population increasing pressure on the NHS and our care system, we need to continue to protect Sevenoaks Hospital. It is a much-loved feature of our town – but it also has an important role to play in relieving pressure on facilities at Pembury and Darent Valley. Carrying on making that argument will be vital this year.
Finally, we need to make sure the District Council develops a robust and reasonable Local Plan that will give us the homes we need without encouraging inappropriate development in our town and in our villages in the years to come.
With all of these priorities and more, I am looking forward to continuing to represent Sevenoaks this year. After a successful 2016, let’s build on our achievements in 2017
In a sometimes unsettled year nationally, Sevenoaks, Swanley, Westerham and our villages have continued to go from strength to strength. Unemployment remains at record low levels. Our new grammar annexe is being constructed and will open next year. Our local economy is vibrant and prosperous.
Building on this progress will require more work in the New Year. Bringing fast broadband to all parts of the constituency is still a top priority. We must also continue to work hard to protect our much-loved Green Belt from inappropriate development. Most importantly, though, the spring will see consultation on the new rail franchise and I will use this opportunity to push for the extension of the Oyster network to Sevenoaks.
At the end of a successful year for Sevenoaks and Swanley, I would like to wish all of my constituents a very happy Christmas and New Year. I am always proud to represent this constituency and I look forward to being as active as ever throughout the area in 2017.
Michael showed his support for local businesses earlier this month with a visit to Sevenoaks town centre.
He met business owners on from high street shops and small businesses such as The Chinaman, Sevenoaks Bookshop, Barkers and Grace to talk about the busy lead up to Christmas and their efforts to attract customers. He was joined by Sevenoaks District Council Leader, Cllr Peter Fleming and Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Cllr Roddy Hogarth.
Michael said: “I was pleased to visit these thriving local businesses at such a busy time of the year. They really are the lifeblood of Sevenoaks’ economy and this was an excellent opportunity to hear about their latest progress.”
On Friday, Michael visited the Teardrop Centre in Swanley.
The site, which was formerly derelict, has recently been brought back into use by Trimline Distribution Group. Michael was shown around by Partner Bruce Hazell and heard about the progress that has been made to restore the centre.
He spoke to an assembled group of employees about the Government’s support for the economy and answered questions about his work as Secretary of State for Defence.
On his final constituency day in 2016, Michael visited local secondary schools to learn more about their achievements over the past year.
Visiting the site of the new Weald of Kent grammar annexe in Seal Hollow Road, Michael was shown where the new building will be constructed. The annexe will cater for 90 pupils per year when it opens in September 2017. Michael continues to campaign to bring boys’ grammar provision to Sevenoaks and heard more about how an additional annexe could be accommodated on the site in the future.
His visit was followed by a meeting with Matthew Pawson, new Headmaster of Trinity School, and a tour of the school’s new building, which opened in September and sits on the same site as the new grammar annexe.
Michael also visited Orchards Academy in Swanley to meet Headteacher Natalie Willbourn and look in on lessons as the school prepares for the end of term.
Michael said: “Our local schools have made excellent progress this year. With Trinity’s new building and the grammar annexe well on its way, there is increasing high-quality choice for parents and pupils in Sevenoaks. I was delighted to hear about the schools’ achievements and wish them and their pupils the best of luck for next year.”
In his latest column for the Sevenoaks Chronicle, Michael has written about the need for improvements to rail services:
As the nights draw in, rail disruption on long, cold journeys home seems ever more frustrating. Problems like the ones we experienced in Sevenoaks last week seem to happen all too often.
I regularly receive complaints about Southeastern’s performance and I recently joined other Kent MPs to press the Rail Minister for improvements. I will be paying particularly close attention during the winter months.
Next year will see the start of a wider process to decide on the details of the new regional rail franchise from 2018. For anyone who wants to see better services in Sevenoaks, this is an important opportunity to have your say. There will be a consultation in the spring on what we want to see and I encourage everyone to participate.
My top priority will be the extension of the Oyster network to stations like Sevenoaks. I promised to fight for this vital improvement at the election last year and I will be lobbying hard. There are wider issues too, though, such as making sure there are enough trains and seats to cope with growing passenger numbers.
Securing all of these changes will only be possible if we push for them together. I know some people think that things will never change. I know they are tired of the old excuses for poor service and disruption. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look for new solutions. We have to seize this opportunity to secure the meaningful improvements we need.
In the meantime, I would like to wish all of my constituents a very happy Christmas and New Year. In a politically eventful year, Sevenoaks and Swanley have continued to thrive and I am looking forward to continuing to serve as your MP in 2017.